Music Unlimited is a rather unusual app for the PlayStation Vita. Rather than offering a portal to an existing third party service as the exisitng Facebook, Youtube, Skype and Twitter apps do, or providing something fun and unusual such as Wake Up Club, this offers PS Vita owners access to Sony’s online music streaming service Music Unlimited through the console.
Looking at the service itself first, Music Unlimited provides users with access to a vast library of music that you can stream straight from Sony’s servers to any compatible device. This includes the PS3, PS Vita, PC, compatible Android devices and even the iPhone and iPad. There are reported to be well in excess of 1 million songs stored online from not only mainstream artists but more obscure bands and performers as well so the service claims to be able to offer something for everyone. All you need to do to be able to sign up is to have a PlayStation Network account and you’re up and running.
The service is controlled by dedicated software for most platforms or a browser interface on the PC, and allows users to search for music by artist, album or song title, create playlists, and add individual songs, artists and albums to a personal library to enable songs to be found easily each time the service is accessed at a later date. Each time you visit Music Unlimited you are presented with updates on the latest albums and songs that have been added, as well as personal recommendations based on what you have added to your library.
As well as accessing content through the search functions and your own library,there are Channels each offering preset tracklists with a common theme allowing you to listed to charts of songs that are currentlypopular on the service, or channels themed by genre such as rock, pop, R&B, and even music from video games so if you don’t have time to search, this is a great starting point to find something to listen to and there’s a fantastic variety on offer. In addition to these, there are further channels for sub-genres, more specialist types of music, eras and even mood music – almost 70 channels in total. If that’s still not enough for you, you can even create your own personalised channels to listen to whenever you wish.
While the service is designed for online use (and offers two settings for sound quality – normal and HD) it doesn’t require a particularly fast connection and it works equally well on a home broadband connection or a mobile 3G connection so it’s ideal for use on the go but if you want to access a large library then Music Unlimited has an ace up it’s sleeve… it’s offline mode. The service allows you to store up to 4,000 tracks from your library offline on whatever device you are using it on for playback at any time regardless of whether you are using an internet connection or not. This limit is not set by any particular device but the service itself but 4,000 songs should be more than enough to meet anyone’s particular needs for music on the go.
So onto the PS Vita version. I’ve used Music Unlimited on a variety of platforms – PC, Android (both phone and tablet) and the PS3 and I have to say that the PlayStation Vita is probably the fastest and easiest of all of them to use. While the PC version uses a somewhat clunky web-based interface, the Vita makes full use of the touch screen and is quick and intuitive and is simple to navigate. Everything can be accessed easily with just a couple of touches from the screen and it’s easy to add individual songs and albums not only to your library but to playlists as well. Transferring these to your Vita is a quick and painless process and multiple playlists can be queued up for downloading so once this process is started you can continue using the app normally while the songs transfer to your memory card.
One great feature for the Vita is the ability to multi-task. Once you have Music Unlimited running, it allows you to effortlessly switch from the app to other apps that you may have installed on the console so you can use the web browser, check messages, use Facebook, Twitter or other social apps to your heart’s content without interruption and listen to music in the background that you have downloaded to the console to play offline. While this may only be a small feature, it’s great to have access to a near unlimited library of music to have installed on your Vita to listen to whenever you want, no matter what you use your Vita for. Right now this doesn’t function in collaboration with any games, but the potential for this could be limitless if added in the future…
To tempt new users to join up to Music Unlimited, Sony offer a free 30-day trial to the service and after that there is a recurring monthly subscription charge or £9.99. While this may seem expensive for what is effectively a music rental service, there are no limits on the number of tracks you can add to your library and there is an extensive range on offer. The only limitation is the 4,000 offline track limit, but songs can be swapped and changed readily enough. Is it worth it though?
When I installed the app I was curious but my concern was how well it would cope with my tastes in music. I have quite varied tastes from mainstream rock to the more obscure composers and bands – from video game composers to Swedish electronic pop and I knew that this was going to be the real crunch for me. As it stands, most times I buy a CD these days it usually gets transferred across to my PC and then the CDs end up in storage with the files themselves being played back through the PC and PS3 or my MP3 player so physical CDs aren’t as important to me as they used to be. While not featuring everything, I was pleasantly surprised to find no less than 14 albums by video games composer and personal friend Bjorn Lynne (former in-house musician at Team 17), six from S.P.O.C.K (a Swedish band I’ve been a fan of since the early 90s who hardly anyone in the UK has heard of!), and a healthy selection from Chris Hulsbeck (another video game composer) and CDs filled with video game remixes (another area I am keen on) not to mention countless albums from Queen, Aerosmith, ZZ Top and more. That being the case, I’ve currently got a few hundred CDs in my library already so I was more than happy with the choices available to me!
Playback on the Vita is superb and there’s no drop in quality, access time is super-fast and the offline playback and storage works wonderfully and is a joy to use. As for the cost, for the price of a dozen CDs to have access to this much music that I’d only end up storing digitally then it’s well worth considering. The only downside is that the App itself makes no mention whatsoever of the monthly charge but ignoring that, this is a must for any music lover.
At A Glance
- Title: Music Unlimited
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A (single subscription works across all registered devices)
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 27Mb
- Price: £9.99 / month subscription (free 30-day trial)